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Cheech And Chong Reunite, At Long Last


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

Cheech and Chong are to comedy what the Grateful Dead are to rock or Gilbert Shelton to comics. Starting in the early '70s, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong performed classic, counterculture routines about hippies, sex and, most notably, their love of marijuana. They went onto pioneer the stoner movie with "Up In Smoke." The act broke up in the 1980s, but reformed a couple of years ago. These days, Cheech and Chong are back on tour, still laughing, but also teaming up with other advocates for the legalization of marijuana. Today, Cheech and Chong and the "Get It Legal" tour.

Later in the hour: Bernard Cornwell, the author of the Richard Sharpe and Saxon tales novels joins us. But first, if you have questions for Cheech and Chong -we know many of you are fans, but actual questions please - give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Richard Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong join us from our studios at NPR West in California. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Mr. CHEECH MARIN (Comedian and Actor): Well, it's nice to be had.

Mr. TOMMY CHONG (Comedian and Actor): Really nice to be here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, I wanted to ask you about that little sound you just made, Tommy.

Mr. CHONG: Ah.

CONAN: Was your act from the very beginning based on pot and counterculture?

Mr. CHONG: No. Actually, we started in a strip bar, so - a strip club, so we did all the titties and buttocks jokes.

Mr. MARIN: It was mostly sex.

Mr. CHONG: A lot of sex jokes.

CONAN: So, really, inheritors of the burlesque tradition.

Mr. MARIN: Yep.

Mr. CHONG: Yes.

Mr. MARIN: That's how we kind of yourselves, as hippie burlesque.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah. And then we started doing - when we started doing concerts, especially in Southern California, we had to accommodate our audiences, which were very much involved in the magic weed.

Mr. MARIN: And Chicanos, and then sometimes those are overlapped.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: And sometimes those overlapped, as astonishing as that may be. In the meantime, it's interesting, you started out in clubs, but really made you reputation, as you say, playing concert halls along with bands. Of course, you played some music yourselves, too.

Mr. CHONG: Well, thanks to Lou Adler, we got a recording contract in 1971, did a hit single called "Dave's Not Here," and it put us on the map. And then we started touring behind that, and we hadn't stopped since.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARIN: Well, we were both always musicians most of our lives.

CONAN: And that kind of experience, though, is very different from the career arc you see of most comedians who followed in your wake.

Mr. CHONG: Well, we're like the magic herb, you know. We're just getting better every year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARIN: Yeah, really better.

CONAN: Really...

Mr. CHONG: And more popular.

CONAN: And more popular, well except for that, well, 25-year-or-so hiatus between the times...

Mr. MARIN: Well, sometimes you need the fields to lie fallow in order to gain nutrients.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I wonder - you guys obviously worked together for a long time, then you worked separately for a long time. Is it easier to work together, or is it more easier to work by yourself?

Mr. CHONG: Well, it's much easier together.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. When we came back last year to start doing this, we didn't really even rehearse. We just kind of talked over what we were going to do and then went on stage and did it. It was like we've been apart 25 seconds, not 25 years.

Mr. CHONG: We rehearsed one time. I mean, years ago, when we first started our career. And that was - that came up with a record called "Dave's Not Here". That was a rehearsal. And that was really the only rehearsal we ever...

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: ...we've ever done. We talk about it, but then we end up, you know, we save it for the camera.

CONAN: But is this just the benefit of having worked together all those years, or certainly when you started out, did you have written routines?

Mr. CHONG: No.

Mr. MARIN: No. It's - we've always been improvisational from the start, you know.

Mr. CHONG: When you're a couple of hippies working in a strip club, you've got to think on your feet, bro.

Mr. MARIN: And if you own the club, you can do anything you want.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, you never quite got to that point, did you?

Mr. MARIN: Oh, yeah.

Mr. CHONG: Oh, yeah.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. Tommy's family owned the club.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: Oh, I see. So that meant there was a certain tolerance for the nights things didn't go quite so well.

Mr. CHONG: That's right, that's right. And - you know, so we've always been sort of ready to move with the audience, whatever the audience is in.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: We've always - you know, our first aim was to...

Mr. MARIN: Entertain.

Mr. CHONG: Help me, help me.

Mr. MARIN: Entertain the audience.

Mr. CHONG: Help me. Entertaining the audience, yeah. That's it.

Mr. MARIN: Those wonderful drunk hockey players.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And I - as you - I wonder, going back to the early days when you were starting to work together, people forget how subversive your humor really was. And I wonder whether you saw yourselves as creating some space for other people who were around at the same time. The Smothers Brothers were a little more straight-laced, but subversive in their own way.

Mr. MARIN: I thought we were kind of just continuing the tradition, not only of that kind of material, but also the comedy duet - duo tradition that has kind of laid fallow since our demise.

Mr. CHONG: And plus, we started - and when we came down to L.A. in 1970, there were no comedy clubs, and there was really nowhere to work. There was folk clubs...

Mr. MARIN: Yeah, the folk clubs.

Mr. CHONG: ...and black clubs, black R&B clubs, and that's the clubs that we started in.

Mr. MARIN: The big difference is the black clubs paid America money, white clubs didn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You didn't get paid when you worked in the white clubs.

Mr. CHONG: No, no. That was...

Mr. MARIN: We worked a lot of black clubs.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah, it was the freebie, you know, yeah.

CONAN: All right.

Mr. CHONG: You know, you can do a free set.

Mr. MARIN: A hoop night.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah, a hoop night.

CONAN: That's right. You know, a free mic night, that sort of thing.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

CONAN: You were getting to showcase yourself.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah, there you go.

Mr. CHONG: Showcased. That's what we were.

CONAN: We are talking with Cheech and Chong today, 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. They're currently touring on the "Get It Legal" tour. And let's begin with a call from Evie(ph), Evie calling from Grand Junction in Colorado. Hello, Evie, are you there?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I think Evie's had...

Mr. CHONG: That's a stoner.

Mr. MARIN: Evie-leavie.

CONAN: Let's see if...

Mr. CHONG: Hasn't figured out that they're on the air. Oh, man. That sounds like me.

Mr. MARIN: Wow.

CONAN: Let's get to - this is Stewart, Stewart with us from Covington in Kentucky.

STEWART (Caller): Yes. My question is regarding your guys' kind of approach to the filmmaking when you first started out, whether you were taking it really seriously and were trying to be hands-on with everything, or whether you were kind of just along for the ride and were writing the scripts. And I'd just kind of like to know more about that.

Mr. MARIN: Oh, no. We were very hands on in every aspect of it, you know, but it was just - we had - we came at it with an improvisational attitude. So it may have seemed casual, but it was anything but.

Mr. CHONG: Well, we used the Robert Altman approach. In fact, we used his people...

Mr. MARIN: That's correct.

Mr. CHONG: ...when we did our first, "Up In Smoke," we used all of Robert Altman's approach. And he - you know, he's the one that did "M*A*S*H," and he had that let-everybody-talk-at-the-same-time approach.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: And we like that approach.

CONAN: And hope to get a microphone there.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah, exactly.

CONAN: How did that movie come about? How did it happen that somebody was willing to invest a whole lot of money...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: ...in the concept of a stoner movie?

Mr. MARIN: Well, there was a scam.

Mr. CHONG: The whole lot of money was - we did for less than a million. We - I think the budget was less than...

Mr. MARIN: Eight hundred.

Mr. CHONG: ...nine hundred.

Mr. MARIN: Eight hundred thousand.

Mr. CHONG: It was eight hundred thousand.

CONAN: Well, a dollar was a dollar back in those days.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: At the end of the day - well, this was when they were doing "Heaven's Gate"...

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: ...which was costing 40 million, and we ended up being number one box office for the whole year, I think.

Mr. MARIN: What happened is that we had this long album career, that all our albums went to number one, and we had this big, successful concert tour. And at the height of it, we said, we've got to get into movies. So we took the time off and start writing and writing and writing "Up In Smoke."

Mr. CHONG: And this is when we turned down - NBC offered us a big money for it.

Mr. MARIN: They offered us "The Jay Leno Show."

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. CHONG: No, they offered us a show called "Chico & the Man"...


Mr. CHONG: ...which then ended up "Chico & the Man."

CONAN: Well, that turned out to be Freddie Prinze, right?

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. Well, Jimmy Komack followed us around for three months, our live show and - making notes. And he actually used our act to do "Chico & the Man," but we turned it down because we knew that we would - our act would play much better on the big screen.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: And followed that up with, well, "Still Smokin'" and other films. And you guys were at the top, so why did you break up?

Mr. MARIN: We got bored.

Mr. CHONG: Couldn't stand each other.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: We got rich. You know what happened? We got rich. We started staying in separate trailers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARIN: And then we'd start - you know, because that's how we would rehearse. We'd get together before an act and say, hey, what's up, man? Let's do this and let's do that. And when we got separated, then we started having people talk for us. You know, he'd have his manager. I had my manager, and...

CONAN: Oh, your people would talk to his people?

Mr.�CHONG: That's right, that's right.

Mr.�MARIN: It only worked if we roomed together. It was about the attraction.

Mr.�CHONG: We also kind of ran the string out. You know, everybody's got a string, and we ran it out, like everybody, you know, Arnold, everybody.

Mr.�MARIN: Every comic that you look out there, whether it be Robin Williams or Jim Carrey or Steve Carell or Cheech or Chong, basically when they're the most successful have like six movies, and then the public gets tired of them because there's a new generation that needs their own heroes.

Mr.�CHONG: Plus, you're competing against your best movie. Everybody keeps, you know, comparing your latest stuff where, oh, it wasn't as good as "Up in Smoke," you know, that kind of thing.

CONAN: Right. The first - the second "Harold and Kumar" nowhere near as good as the first one.

Mr.�CHONG: That's the way it.

Mr.�MARIN: You're one of those kind of guys.

Mr.�CHONG: And so what we did, instead of, you know, beating a dead horse, we just split, and Cheech went on, you know, and he did his career, and I went on, and I learned how to do stand-up on my own, and then I incorporated my wife Shelby into the act. And so now, we're back together, and there are three of us, you know, well, actually four counting Cheech's son Joey. And so we've got a little - Cheech and Chong and the Family Stone.

Mr.�MARIN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's get Chris(ph) on the line, Chris calling us from Baton Rouge.

CHRIS (Caller): Oh, am I on?

CONAN: Yeah, you are.

Mr.�CHONG: You are.

CHRIS: Okay.

Mr.�CHONG: We don't know what you're on, but you're on.

CHRIS: I just want to say I'm a great fan. I thought your albums were awesome, even better than your movies.

Mr.�CHONG: Oh, thank you.

CHRIS: But my question is: Other than the marijuana jokes, which are obviously - you know, kind of transcend time, what's your strategy for comedy to reach a generation that you really haven't grown up in and is completely different than the '70s and '80s?

Mr.�CHONG: Just do what we do, and you know, let them discover us. You know, we - they have to come to us. We've always been really good at entertaining young kids. For some reason, you know, eight-year-olds get our album and just love it. They didn't understand, they never understood...

CONAN: Thanks to the sophistication of your humor.

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah, they never understood the doper parts, but they sure understood the poop jokes, you know. So we have a lot of those.

Mr.�MARIN: And they like funny voices.

CHRIS: Sister Mary Elephant jokes or something like that.

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah, yeah.

CONAN: And gosh, those will never go anywhere in American entertainment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�CHONG: Carol Burnett stole our bit.

Mr.�MARIN: Yeah, she used to do Sister Mary Elephant.

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah, shut up...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Chris, have you managed to catch the new act yet?

CHRIS: No, I saw you all when you were on - I think it was Jimmy Fallon.

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah.

CHRIS: Yeah, I saw you guys there, and you did "The Mexican-American Song," which was absolutely fabulous, and I mean, I'm pushing 35, and I would definitely go and see you all if you came into Baton Rouge.

Mr.�MARIN: We're coming to somewhere around there, I think maybe even Baton Rouge.

Mr.�CHONG: We're coming to a city near you.

Mr.�MARIN: Just hold on. We'll be everywhere.

CONAN: Stay tuned, Chris.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHRIS: Thank you guys, I appreciate it.

CONAN: Bye-bye. We're talking today with Cheech and Chong, and we'll have more about their career in stand-up comedy and the "Get It Legal" tour in just a moment. More of your calls as well, 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Our guests today, Cheech and Chong. Many of us might have their albums still tucked into our bookshelves, comedy bits and some hilarious songs, "Basketball Jones" and "Born in East L.A." to name just two.

Richard Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are back together again and on tour, in the middle of the "Get It Legal" tour, as a matter of fact. We'll talk more about that in just a moment.

If you'd like to talk with Cheech and Chong about their career, their comedy or their new tour, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And the "Get It Legal" tour, is the point of this to legalize marijuana for any purposes or medical marijuana?

Mr.�CHONG: No, just legalize it so I can get off my felony convictions, basically.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�CHONG: Basically that's what we're trying to do.

Mr.�MARIN: I would like to...

CONAN: Looking for a presidential pardon there.

Mr.�CHONG: Yes, yes.

Mr.�MARIN: We would like to legalize it for any purpose eventually. It's quasi-legal now. It's kind of like immigration. Mexicans are quasi-legal.

Mr.�CHONG: The way the drug laws are now, it depends on who's in power. You know, the Republicans get in, they take it to the letter, you know. They put -you know, like Reagan did, you know, taking people's yacht because they found a joint on it, you know. And then Bush, you know, was very famous for busting me for a bong, you know, so...

CONAN: Paraphernalia I think was the word they used.

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah, paraphernalia. Yeah, but we - you know, we've got to stop this mess. You know, you figure it out. It's been proven to help people with M.S., with cancer, with glaucoma, with bulimia. I mean, the list goes on and on and on, and why can't people - you know, and the other side says, well, you know, what if little kids get it? You know, it's ridiculous.

CONAN: Well, what if little kids get it? And it's also been proven to mess up some people's lives. Addicts have a hard time with it.

Mr.�MARIN: So does beer, but that's legal. We should have a referendum: beer or weed?

Mr.�CHONG: But even, like, when I was in prison, the only - people with OxyContin, you know, which is legal, addiction...

CONAN: Except you can only get it with a prescription, theoretically.

Mr.�MARIN: Theoretically.

Mr.�CHONG: They had a hard time kicking that drug, you know. The only people that never had any problem were potheads, you know, because we can - like me. I smoked pot all my life for 50 years, and then I had to go to jail, and I had to quit, and I quit with no problems, and the only problem I had, I developed a prostrate problem, which I've cured now by smoking pot.

So you know, it should be - it has to be legal. I mean, it was legal in China for 5,000 years, used as medicine. It's been used as medicine in Mexico forever, South America forever. And we have to get on that, you know?

CONAN: Nevertheless, some people do have problems. Obviously, some people have problems with alcohol too. As you point out, it's legal. Why create the possibility of more problems, which is what (unintelligible)...

Mr.�MARIN: People want socially accepted intoxicants since the Bible. You know, it doesn't really matter. They're going to do it anyways because it's part of the human process.

Mr.�CHONG: And it's also a medical thing, like preventive medicine, for instance, you know, like basketball players that, you know, got a high adrenaline rush, you know, after their game. They'll smoke up, and they'll come down. Policemen, you know, instead of becoming an alcoholic, they become potheads, and they calm themselves down. Airline pilots, it's been known that airline pilots, the guy on Air Canada - I think it was Air Canada, Canadian Airlines - he got caught smoking a joint. He had the best on-time record of the whole airlines, and yet they fired him because, you know, they caught him smoking a joint.

CONAN: Well, partly because what he was doing was illegal, and...

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah. But being black was illegal too, you know. Like, there was a time when, you know, a black man couldn't sit on a bus, you know, so it's the same law.

CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Tyler's(ph) calling from Hayfork in California.

TYLER (Caller): Hi, Cheech and Chong, how are you doing today?

Mr.�CHONG: Hi.

TYLER: So I'm a medical marijuana patient in California, and I wanted to ask your opinion on the legalization attempt here, which is Assembly Bill 390, whether you think it's a comprehensive bill and if it'll actually work.

Mr.�MARIN: I hope it will. You know, it's coming before Congress, the state Congress, and hopefully we'll get enough supporters to put it on the bill and put it to a vote.

I think that if any of these measures are put to a vote, the polls indicate that the majority do favor legalization.

Mr.�CHONG: I like - they also put a moratorium, you know, the Los Angeles City Council came up with a plan to allow 70 dispensaries to operate in Los Angeles.

CONAN: That down from 1,000 that are operating now.

Mr.�CHONG: That's a great, great, great step ahead, you know, because it's like playing chess, you know. We've got the opposition check-mated now. We can operate 70 dispensaries.

CONAN: Wait a minute. You went from 1,000 legal dispensaries to 70. This is a step forward for your cause?

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah.

Mr.�MARIN: Well, we own half of them.

Mr.�CHONG: No, listen, put it this way. We went from going to jail for, you know, a patient going to jail for smoking it to being able to go to one of the 70 dispensaries and get it legally. That's a big step forward.

Mr.�MARIN: Our last three, at least three, presidents have admitted smoking marijuana, and our governor, current governor, smoked with Tommy Chong.

Mr.�CHONG: And the first one used to grow it.

CONAN: All right.

TYLER: I'm sorry to interrupt.

CONAN: That's okay.

TYLER: Do you think that the passing of Assembly Bill 390 would somehow mess with the medical marijuana patients, and don't you think it would kind of cancel it out?

Mr.�MARIN: No, I dont think so. I think it widens the area. It's more or less of a wedge that's being inserted in the politic body, and actually, it'll open the door for more. And we're almost getting to be at a tipping point for the number of states that have legalized it. We're at 14 right now, with New Jersey passing legalization of medical marijuana. So it'll just be a matter of time.

CONAN: Maryland might be next. Here's an email that we have from James(ph) in Sevastopol, California, and he says: Cheech Marin has amassed a wonderful collection of Chicano art. He owns several pieces by one of my favorite Chicano artists, George Yepes, and I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly.

Mr.�MARIN: Yepes.

CONAN: I'd like to ask him how he got started collecting and what he looks for in these purchases.

Mr.�MARIN: You know, I started - I was a fan of art ever since I was a little kid. Like, 11, 12, I started studying art, and when I discovered the Chicano painters, I recognized that they were really great painters, and I started collecting their work.

What I look for when I see a piece of art for the first time is some kind of emotional, intellectual experience, that's a combination of both of those things and is informed by my knowledge and something new that I see the artist doing.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Russell(ph) on the line, and Russell's calling from Wolfam(ph) in Massachusetts.

RUSSELL (Caller): Hey, is Dave there?

Mr.�MARIN: He's under the table.

Mr.�CHONG: Dave's not here, man.

CONAN: You might have to explain that to some of our callers.

RUSSELL: Hey, just quick question. When are you guys coming to Boston, Massachusetts?

Mr.�MARIN: We were there last year.

RUSSELL: Oh, I missed you.

Mr.�CHONG: We'll be there sometime.

Mr.�MARIN: Yeah. Right after the Celtics win another NBA pennant, so maybe not.

RUSSELL: I don't know if I'll still be alive.

Mr.�CHONG: No, we'll be there.

Mr.�MARIN: We'll be there.

Mr.�CHONG: We'll be there somewhere.

RUSSELL: All right, guys, you're great. I love you.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Russell. This email from Manuel(ph) in San Antonio: "The Corsican Brothers" movie is one of my favorite Cheech and Chong films. What was the genesis of that movie's script? Are there scripts, movies that you turned down that you regret not taking?

Mr.�CHONG: Yeah, me. You know, "The Corsican Brothers" was our first and last non-smoking, non-dope movie, and it's a favorite of a lot of people. We had a lot of fun doing it.

Mr.�MARIN: It's - who was the original author of that, "The Corsican Brothers"?

Mr.�CHONG: Dumas or something?

Mr.�MARIN: No, Victor Hugo, I believe.

CONAN: Could have been.

Mr.�MARIN: Yeah, wrote the original, and it's been made and remade and made again under many guises over the years. We were just the latest of it.

Mr.�CHONG: And halfway through the movie, the movie company started sending me hash pipes, saying can you put some dope in there?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�CHONG: But we made a deal, you know, that we weren't - we were going to do a movie without dope.

CONAN: It is Alexander Dumas.

Mr.�MARIN: Yeah.

Mr.�CHONG: I said it. I won. Uuuuggh. So movies we regretted: I wanted to do "The Cisco Kid," but Cheech had split by then, so we didn't do it.

CONAN: This from Joyce(ph) in Davis, California. My father has made me and my siblings huge fans of yours. Thanks for all your work. What are your favorite stoner movies, besides yours, of all time?

Mr.�MARIN: I like "Napoleon Dynamite," although it's not, you know, strictly speaking a doper movie. I don't think it has to have dope in it to be a doper movie.

Mr.�CHONG: No, it doesn't.

Mr.�MARIN: I think it has to be the doper attitude, you know, the kind of half a beat late.

Mr.�CHONG: I'll tell one you want to get high and watch is "Lolita." Oh, that was a funny - Peter Sellers is incredible in it. A lot of good humor in that one. But, see, that's the magic of pot, man. You can make any movie your favorite movie if you've got your favorite bud.

CONAN: Let's go to Ramon, Ramon with us from Columbus.

RAMON (Caller): Hi, guys.

Mr.�MARIN: Hey.

RAMON: First of all, I just wanted to say I'm a huge fan, and I love your guys' movies and CDs and stuff, but I was just wondering: If you guys weren't successful with your comedy and movie careers, what would you see yourself doing today?

Mr. MARIN: I'd be a congressman.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: I'd be a roofer.

Mr. MARIN: So, it's from the top to the bottom.

Mr. CHONG: That was the only job I could get with my education.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: I'm going to be a roofer. Yeah. Yeah, we are - we're hiring. Come on up here.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. And as a congressman, I could just say anything. It doesn't have to be rooted in truth or, you know, reality or any of those things.

RON: I'd vote for you.

CONAN: I'm sorry, Ron, what did you say?

Mr. CHONG: You could be a newscaster.

RON: I'd vote for you.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much.

Mr. MARIN: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the phone call. The comedy business has changed tremendously since you guys were last out in the 1980s. What kinds of clubs are you playing now?

Mr. MARIN: I would - most - all playing concerts, concerts and...

Mr. CHONG: Indian casinos.

Mr. MARIN: ...Indian casinos

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: So these are much bigger rooms than some place like the improv.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. No, we haven't played those for 40 years.

Mr. CHONG: Forever. What we do when we first got back, we played the Comedy Club in...

Mr. MARIN: Or the Comedy Store in La Jolla.

Mr. CHONG: ...La Jolla, yeah.

Mr. MARIN: Just to try out the material.

CONAN: Well that's an opportunity to - excuse the expression - showcase and see if your act is working.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: Well, that's what we did.

CONAN: Was there any doubt that you could - that it would still - the chemistry will still be there.

Mr. CHONG: Not by us, by the Live Nation, the people the - that were paying the big bucks. They were a little nervous, you know?

Mr. MARIN: Everybody else was nervous but us.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

Mr. MARIN: We were totally calm. You know, (unintelligible)...

Mr. CHONG: And even though, Cheech and I weren't - still weren't speaking that much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: They were a little worried. But as soon as we got on stage, man, all that other stuff just went away and everything just flowed real nice.

Mr. MARIN: It is as amazing. To do a comedy team, it requires so much extracurricular stuff, so much compromise, so much intuitiveness to know what the other guy is doing. That's why it's so hard to do it. And you don't see any comedy teams right now. It has to be a natural chemistry and we're lucky enough to have that.

Mr. CHONG: There is a one forming. Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: They're forming. They're going to go on tour.

CONAN: When you say comprise, what do you mean by compromise? What do you have to get...

Mr. MARIN: Well, you know, any great team are usually diametrically opposed in who they are and what they think. You look at Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, or any of those kind of teams. They represent both ends of the spectrum, and where they meet and where they conflict in the middle, that springs out of that is their art.

CONAN: Well, normally, you see in comedy teams, at least, the famous once that we're familiar with, Laurel and Hardy, or even Burns and Allen, one's the straight man and once the buffoon.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. We were both straight men.

Mr. CHONG: And both buffoons, yeah.

Mr. MARIN: Oh, yeah, and buffoons too.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: We're talking to Cheech and Chong. They're on the "Get It Legal" tour. They're at NPR West in Culver City, California. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's get Barry on the line. Barry is calling us from Cleveland Park in Kansas.

BARRY (Caller): Hi, guys. How are you?

Mr. MARIN: Good. How are you?

Mr. CHONG: Good.

BARRY: Good. And I admired you work over the years so much, I even named my dog after your "Big Bamboo" album.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARIN: Really?

BARRY: Am I...

Mr. CHONG: Do you call him joint.

BARRY: From the album. Whose idea was it to put that extra paper in there?

Mr. MARIN: That was a guy named Craig Brawn, who was - after he designed it, he brought it to Lou Adler. And it seemed like a natural fit.

Mr. CHONG: Oh, it was great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: I get letters from the Big Bamboo cigarette paper company.

Mr. MARIN: The (unintelligible). I get papers.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: Really?

Mr. MARIN: Yeah, yeah. I don't box them.

Mr. CHONG: I don't use papers.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah, I get into paper more badly.


Mr. CHONG: I use pipes.

CONAN: Barry, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

BARRY: All right, same to you.

CONAN: What do you guys see as the future now? You were 25 years apart. What about a year or so back together now - are you going to keep working together or go back on individual projects?

Mr. CHONG: We're going to probably end up in the SAG old age home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: That's the future I see.

CONAN: The Screen Actor's Guild, yeah.

Mr. MARIN: Medical marijuana concession for old age homes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Now, you might do pretty well there.

Mr. CHONG: No, we got a movie. We're working on a movie. We're working on an animated - we animated our...

Mr. MARIN: Early bits...

Mr. CHONG: ...record bits, yeah. And we're...

Mr. MARIN: We have a concert movie over the last tour coming out on April 20th, 4/20.

Mr. CHONG: 4/20, yeah. And we've got alimony payments...

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: We've got a...

Mr. MARIN: Grandkids to raise.

Mr. CHONG: Kids to raise.

CONAN: Do you...

Mr. CHONG: I got a son that won't leave home, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That's a problem nobody else has.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

CONAN: Do you see the same kind of subversiveness that you came up with in comedy today?

Mr. CHONG: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Mr. MARIN: Like who? Not at all.

Mr. CHONG: Practically, all the comedians, you know- you know, you see it in the movies. You see mainstream like a - what was that Meryl Streep movie with Alec Baldwin?

Mr. MARIN: Oh, "It's Complicated."

Mr. CHONG: "Complicated."

Mr. MARIN: Or weeds or...

Mr. CHONG: The best scene in the whole movie was them getting high.

Mr. MARIN: Dont give it away.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: Too bad.

Mr. MARIN: You can't give that away.

Mr. CHONG: Unless comedians now, yeah, I watch a lot of comedians. Wanda Sykes, probably one of the best. She's genius. She's there. You know, she - it's an ongoing thing, you know?

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

CONAN: Comedy Central seems to have changed the business a lot, though.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah, very much.

Mr. CHONG: That's where you go look at your news.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: Because "The Daily Show," you can't watch anybody else and "The Daily Show" is more ahead of everybody else, you know.

Mr. MARIN: And all I care is that there's an outpost for a lot comedy - of different kinds of comedy.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

CONAN: But in the old days, it was the act acme to get on well, the Carson's show, "The Tonight Show," that sort of stuff is - is that sort of stuff still that important? Well, we are...

Mr. MARIN: No, because he was only a guy. You know, he was the only guy out there. And we were never on the Carson show.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah. They didn't want us on.

CONAN: In fact...

Mr. CHONG: We were actually...

CONAN: If you had done a drunk act, you would have made it though.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHONG: Yeah.

Mr. MARIN: We represented actually the first of the generation that had an alternate source, alternate medium, alternate...

Mr. CHONG: We represented all the producers on "The Tonight's Show." They're all stoners.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHONG: So they didn't want us blowing their act. George Lopez really is the only show now that has us on. We were on just the other night and we did great. So, at least we got our own talk show hero, you know, George Lopez.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. CHONG: And it's a great show, man.

Mr. MARIN: Yeah. We were never on TV. We never, you know, like they couldnt believe that we turned down a TV show, because in those days, AM radio and TV were lame. You know, if you wanted to have any kind of street cred, you didnt do those things.

CONAN: Well, they have plenty of street cred then and now. They're on the "Get It Legal" tour. Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. MARIN: My pleasure.

Mr. CHONG: Well, thanks for having us, man.

CONAN: They joined us from our bureau at Culver City, California, NPR West. By the way, we will be doing some more programming on marijuana legislation with different points of view, so stay tuned to TALK OF THE NATION for that.

Coming up, we're going to be talking with one of the great historical fiction writers going today. Bernard Cornwell will join us. His latest is another episode in "The Saxon Tales." Stay with us for that. I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.